A new chief, a new chapter – Will Kerr sets out priorities for his force

The new chief constable for Devon and Cornwall Police says he is “under no illusion of the scale of some of the challenges ahead” as he set out his priorities for the force.

Jan 18, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Will Kerr

Will Kerr, who took up his post at the end of last year, said this will include getting standards right, improving visibility with communities and looking after the workforce.

Previously deputy chief constable at Police Scotland, he said he was “deeply proud” to be the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police.

Mr Kerr, who has 30 years’ policing experience, was appointed by police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez “following a rigorous selection process”.

Speaking this week, Mr Kerr said: “I have dedicated my career to serving the public and I look forward to continuing this work at the head of this organisation.

“I have purposefully spent my first few weeks meeting officers, staff, and members of the public who make up the fantastic communities of Devon, Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly. I have listened to, and taken on board, their concerns and views on how they feel about their police force. A fundamental process – one of listening – which has and will continue to shape my priorities for the force.”

He added: “We’re very fortunate that Devon and Cornwall Police has a number of core strengths to build on, including very strong community connections, and active community support.

“Having worked in policing in other parts of the UK, I know how important these critical components for good policing are.

“It is no accident that Devon and Cornwall Police has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and remains one of the safest places to live in the UK. This is down to the hard work of officers and staff, but we haven’t done this alone; our communities and partners have helped us achieve this. Thank you for that support which we do not take for granted.

“However, I am under no illusion of the scale of some of the challenges ahead – including those highlighted in the recent HMICFRS (His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services) inspections, but I am confident that we can address these positively and relatively quickly, and continue to deliver the service that our communities expect and deserve.

“A very important part of my job is to ensure that my officers and staff can carry out their roles effectively which is why I have laid out my priorities to ensure that we are able to deliver the best policing service that we can:

“Connectivity: to improve our access to, and visibility with our communities – In short, to continue to invest in our neighbourhood teams and their role in the organisation. We will continue to make significant improvements in how the public can contact us and access our services. We know that policing works best when we work alongside our communities using all the information and tools available to us. A neighbourhood-focused policing approach sustains those important relationships and delivers better policing.”

“Looking after the workforce – My plan is to invest in officer and staff well-being and creating a supportive environment which encourages delegation and innovation. Our police numbers have significantly increased over the past few years, and we need to invest in the investitive and leadership skills of that young in service workforce.”

“Getting our standards right – Police officers and staff perform an important and sometimes dangerous role for society. They deserve to be looked after. We will continue to invest in, and improve, our investigative standards. We also need to tackle unacceptable behaviour internally in the same way. Respect and civility – both within the force and outside it – are professional requirements and lie at the heart of the policing by consent model of British policing.”

Mr Kerr added: “These aren’t the only three priorities for the force, of course. They are, however, areas which set the tone and standards for everything else.

“I am looking forward to getting out and about over the next few months and continue to get to know the communities that make up Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”

Mr Kerr has spent much of his career in policing working at a senior level in different organisations across the UK.

At Police Scotland he was responsible for local policing provision throughout the country. He also oversaw both the criminal justice portfolio, and the partnership, prevention and community wellbeing portfolio, a command of more than 16,500 officers and staff.

He was elected to one of the three European delegate posts for the Executive Committee of Interpol in November 2021, a position he will hold until November 2024. This is an influential post, involving complex global politics in an organisation consisting of 195 member countries.

Mr Kerr spent more than 27 years in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) where he rose to the rank of assistant chief constable for crime and operations and was the lead for both serious crime and counter-terrorism.

Whilse assistant chief constable for Belfast, he was responsible for policing all major events in the city and was the Gold (strategic) commander for the parading season in Northern Ireland. He is a very experienced Gold public order firearms commander and has significant investigative expertise in serious and organised crime and counter-terrorism.

In 2017 and 2018, he held The Director of Vulnerabilities command within he National Crime Agency. In that role, he coordinated the UK’s response (both domestically and internationally) to child sexual abuse, modern slavery, human trafficking, and organised immigration crime.

He was appointed OBE in 2015 while assistant chief constable with the PSNI and received the King’s Policing Medal in the 2023 New Year Honours.

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